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Composting With a Purpose: East Buffalo Custom Composts

There is a new composting operation on the east side that is diverting green waste from landfills and providing a valuable soil amendment to Western New York green infrastructure projects and to area property owners.  Compost is the product resulting from the controlled decomposition of organic matter that has been sanitized through the generation of heat and stabilized to the point that it is beneficial to plant growth and neutralizes any pathogens.  The resulting organic material then can be used as a soil amendment or as a media in gardens or landscapes.

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Dave Majewski has established a composting operation on the east side that will compost about 1,000 tons of green waste in its first year.  East Buffalo Custom Composts, a subsidiary of SRG Buffalo (SRG), and a member of the U.S. Composting Council, will primarily handle grass and tree trimmings from area landscape contractors, material that would have likely ended up in a landfill or driven to a large composting facility in northern Amherst.

Ed Shanahan is partnering with Majewski, and owns the four-acre composting site and the equipment, as well as the adjoining property.  According to Majewski, Shanahan, operator of Emerald Services Concrete and Construction (ESC&C) and also Atlantic Garages, has been very cooperative and understanding in allowing this operation to build over the last eight months.

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“He is not in the business of compost, soils, or organics,” explains Majewski, “but he is bright enough to see a real opportunity and how he can help build something good in Buffalo, especially in his community where he operates out of. He gets it and realizes the benefits and the potential – beyond the dollars and cents.”

The operation is also a money saver for local landscape firms.

“Because I have been taking select green waste from a very few contractors, they don’t have to go to Amherst at forty miles round trip anymore,” says Majewski.  “One of them saved enough fuel, time and money to hire another employee.”

The compost is created by combining organic wastes at proper ratios into static piles and sometimes adding bulking agents such as wood chips as necessary to aerate the piles and to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials.  The finished material stabilizes and matures through a curing process and will be sold to larger commercial customers.

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Majewski’s piles, most the size of a two car garage, are managed by what is called alternating thermophyllic and mesophyllic practices for several weeks before determining the curing stage.  This practice provides a number of benefits: it kills any and all weed seeds and other pathogens within 72 hours. It also builds the internal environment where certain very beneficial micro-organisms develop and thrive if managed properly.

Majewski says the finished compost has been used on green infrastructure projects, sites being remediated or restored, and landscape contractors looking to enhance soil and/or much landscape installations.

“This operation and compost far exceeds the quality of anything in our region,” says Majewski.

Majewski says composting is 60 percent art and 40 percent science. It takes years of hands-on experience to gain the knowledge that help builds the processes that then create the quality end product. You do not get this from a book or two, or a few classes on “how to.” You have to experiment, fail, attempt, fail, succeed, and move from there.  Majewski documents everything and uses those records to improve his process.

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“You have to learn to adjust your processes based on what you see, smell and what the thermometer tells you,” he explains,  “Every week something new pops up that requires you to refer back to records and to research and improve the process.”

“A friend of mine asked me about some ‘compost’ they bought from a local operation.  On the bags the fine print reads that contains cadmium and is not suitable for growing food!  It also notes that it contains sewage sludge. “Sewage sludge is fine to compost and is done around the world. But, it must be done correctly and under the right management protocols or you get a poor or impure end product.”

“This local company, and municipal compost operations compost only to avoid landfill costs and to sell the compost to the uneducated public,” says Majewski.  “As long as they can skirt all the minimum legal environmental regulations, they will get by with the minimum that they can squeeze.

“The majority of compost operations in the region focus on diverting green waste from the land fill and recycling it, providing an environmental service,” says Majewski.  “However, what we do at SRG/East Buffalo Custom Composts is accept specific ingredients, under specific management protocols, and follow a learned batch processing system to create a specific end product for a specific use to meet design protocols for most green infrastructure projects.”

This compost end product is specifically designed for bio-retention, bio-filtration, rain gardens, bio-remediation, etc.  The increased fungal, bacterial and microbial life facilitate increased mutualism with plant roots.  If the plants being used do not increase their root mass, then the storm water runoff management projects can eventually fail.  It can take several years for a single tree, planting, or landscape to fail or exhibit signs of decreasing health.  Using fungal dominated compost at the beginning increases the landscape or tree’s chances significantly.

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Through the initial mixing, ingredients and ingredient ratios and management processes, Majewski can influence the end products to result in bacteria or fungal-dominated composts. Each batch is custom managed to produce a specific end product for a specific use.

This is how we are different and on a whole new plane of technology with what we produce.  I started this to go along with my bio-retention, rain gardens and remediation work.  We could not find a single supplier in the region that makes a quality produce tested by labs and proven. So we did it ourselves.”

“Our compost greatly increases a site’s storm water runoff percolation/infiltration needs as well as increasing the root biomass of plants used. If the right plants are selected, that then increases absorption and subsequently evapotranspiration rates,” he says.

“In the end it is all about carbon,” explains Majewski.  “It is about Carbon sequestration and removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. Quality compost improves poor and denuded soils in just that manner. By increasing the fungal mass and the hypha/hyphae, and eventually the mycorhiza and glomalin production, we can then increase the new tree and shrubs ability to survive even under the worst conditions – by increasing the soil’s properties. It is all about Glomalin production.

Compost added to our soils improves the ability of soil to capture CO2 and to provide the necessary microbial life that benefits the plant roots. Trees being replaced in Western New York since the ‘Storm’ need to be planted with fungal-dominated compost to increase their chances of survival in a minimal maintenance environment.”

Majewski has long been promoting green, low-impact development and Regenerative and Ecological Design (R.E.D.).  He has spearheaded the Urban Habitat Project at the Central Terminal (UHP) and has a long history in the area of environmental remediation, ecology, soils, and ecosystems.  In 2013 he won the Nature Sanctuary Society Environmental Stewardship Aware and in 2014 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Quality Award.

What he’s been preaching for years is finally catching on with enlightened developers and homeowners.  The City of Buffalo is also makings strides; in particular with the upcoming Green Code.

“I see organizations and municipalities and numerous industry professionals still doing it all wrong and wondering why it does not work and then paying out big money to ‘fix’ the problems,” he says.

“In October and November we watch homeowners and contractors and municipal staff rake up leaves and place most of them in plastic bags at the curb for someone to haul ‘away’ to ‘somewhere,” he says.  “All the while robbing the soils and plants of valuable carbon that could just be mowed right back into the lawn and stored for generations.  The homeowner saves money, the contractor saves money, the municipality saves money, and we all get improved soils that absorb green house gases for 100 years.  All this could be used to make quality compost as well.  But, we have to annually contend with those plastic bags!”

“We live in a world of astonishing abundance,” says Majewski.  “There are no shortages except for common sense, intelligent planning, and discerning and unselfish collaborating.  The soil is everything: Water, food, air, and life.  It is all about the soil. At SRG and EBCC, we do the best that we can with what we have to increase soil health and awareness by making the best possible compost for Western New York residents and commercial projects.”

Get Connected: East Buffalo Custom Composts, 716.432.2960 (email)

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Written by WCPerspective

WCPerspective

Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • Buffaboy

    I once went to the compost/mulch site at the Central Terminal to pick up mulch for a volunteering project. This seems like a good idea.

  • buffloonitick

    Dave, you might want to get in touch with ReTree Buffalo and use this compost when they’re planting trees. i have a feeling that a lot of the trees don’t make it because of the lack of mycorhiza in the soil. Thank You for your efforts and good luck with the project.

  • Stateofmind

    More more more!!

  • OldFirstWard

    ““However, what we do at SRG/East Buffalo Custom Composts is accept specific ingredients, under specific management protocols, and follow a learned batch processing system to create a specific end product for a specific use to meet design protocols for most green infrastructure projects.”
    Is that industry code for we also accept sewage sludge?  
    What about dog droppings?  A lot of that gets mixed in with yard wastes. Does that introduce E-Coli and other harmful bacteria’s to the mix?
    Amherst and West Seneca pick up leaves and grass clippings separate from the regular trash.  As do many other towns. The finished product is free to residents of these towns to pick up at the sites.
    I think a lack of a composting program is just one example of bad management by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.  With the myriad of available city owned lots and sites to begin a Buffalo composting operation, the city would rather have the regular trash mixed in with the yard wastes creating extra tonnage and landfill capacity.  If other towns can manage to recycle yard wastes why can’t Buffalo?  I would love to have good quality material available for garden use.

  • ironliege

    Bravo. Anytime we can put back into the earth what came out of it originally is a very, very good thing. Hope this spreads!

  • hockeyhips83

    just had a thought, it would be cool to harness the heat of compost, similar to a steam engine, have a pile which has pipes of water running through the pile, as the pile heats up it would heat the water, heating say a home. to prevent the compost from flaring up from the intense heat, have a system which vibrates/shakes the compost into a bin, then a conveyor which carries it back to the top of the pile, let it sit to develop heat, and continue the cycle again.

  • foreverbflo

    Bout time!!! 
    Someone gets it right! 
    Maybe the city can learn from this and consult with them to make something really good happen. There is so much to be had from these operations. And, municipalities can make good $ from it by charging for tipping fees, shredding, chipping, whatever… and then composting the materials the right way and selling it BACK to those that previously tipped. 
    Duh and win-win-win…. I bet many are willing and ready to buy in. 
    Keep it up.

  • foreverbflo

    hockeyhips83
    Great idea!! There is seemingly unused energy for sure. Look at the heat generated off those piles. It is worth something!

  • foreverbflo

    Buffaboy
    That site seems to have been since shut down or abandoned. Not real composting going on there. I checked it to – lot of skanks dumping whatever….there. 
    Stay away or you may get charged with dumping or something…… That is off limits city property.

  • Buffaboy

    Really? I wonder why they took us there. Weird.

  • bacio895

    Buffaboy Dave used to run his composting operation at the Central Terminal site, he moved to this new site for various reasons.

  • foreverbflo

    hockeyhips83
    thought of very much. There are some obstacles that would preclude the proper processing of the composting as well as feasiblity/logistics for heat harnessing. but yes, absolutely, a very very real possibility of there was enough dedicated investment and commitment. Unfortunately, WNY will continue to fund projects that are more sexy and glamorous and visible. Nature of the business. Too bad – yes. 
    Owning a Prius, solar, wind or geo-thermal will NOT – repeat, NOT – save the world or lessen EXISTING ghg’s. Look it up. These are all just sexy and visible and create jobs and look good and feel good and sound good…….. they are NOT the answer. There is a very good report out there named “World Watch Report #179” (if not, then #176..) This will enlighten anyone. And it is not anecdotal either. These are professors in the industry and devoting their professional careers to this topic.

  • hockeyhips83 The idea of harnessing the heat from compost has been around a long time, but with limited success beyond very small scale.  However, recent developments have produced a break-through technology this is scalable and affordable.
    You can check it out at http://compostpower.org/ and order the book at amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Compost-Powered-Water-Heater-greenhouse/dp/1581571941
    Cary, US Composting Council

  • foreverbflo

    buffloonitick
    This is the WHOLE reason – in spite of well intended vols and dedicated managers…. – that the trees die and never sustain themselves. Just look along Mich Ave for one. 
    Without fungal compost – which then symbiotically fosters mycorhizza after being used as an amendment – these trees, and shrubs and many other plants, etc… WILL NOT live. Period. They already have their obit written. Why waste the time. This is biology and science and fact and there are numerous precedents…. that are supporting of all this. 
    Sure, they need watering to…. but without the above, you might as well write them off after a couple of years. Look all around the city. 
    Instead – ONCE AGAIN – we enlist some Sat afternoon feel-good vols and give them tasks and have them dip the bare roots in to some retail market liquid “fixer-upper….stimulant… blah, blah..” – all the while ignoring the obvious and the simple needs. 
    This wastes sooo much $$ every year. So much! Then, these dead trees are ripped out and sent to the landfill likely. WOW! What else can we do that is more ludicrous?

  • foreverbflo

    Buffaboy
    At the time, it was the only real compost operation happening in Buffalo. Since then, things have evolved very much.

  • foreverbflo

    hockeyhips83
    Harnessing the heat is a great idea. However, the processes needed to harness that heat have an impact on the protocols for compost batch processing – it affects the quality of the end product. Not a bad thing, it’s just that under our current technology protocols, you cannot have the best of both worlds and keep costs down for the end product, and attractive for consumers/users. 
    There are several concepts available for doing this. There are even a couple out on K-Starter that are pretty good. But, in the end, you have to adjust the batch processing of the compost in order to capture and harness the heat to be stored and distributed.

  • foreverbflo

    buffloonitick I fear re-tree will continue doing what they have always been doing. Unfortunately. It’s not about the TREES/WATERING it is about the SOIL/MICROBIOLOGY. Until they get that, they will continue to lose a significant % of their new plantings. Period. 
    This is all so, so very simple and basic ecological and biological science that it seems no one has ever tried to apply to ReTree projects. Unfortunate to say the least. Plus, it SAVES $$.    !!

  • buffloonitick

    foreverbflo 
    yes, agreed. it’s all about the establishment of the underground nutrient networks that exchange nutrients in symbiosis. 
    do you think ReTree would be receptive to some advise/consultation that when the trees are being planted that an inoculate can be put in the soil around the dirt ball and then watered to give the trees a better chance at surviving?